Swiss watch brand Ulysse Nardin has added two distinctive Freak Vision timepieces to its nautical universe. Named after the famous snorkeling reef of Coral Bay in Western Australia, the two Freak Vision Coral Bay timepieces showcase an exciting new decorative bonding technique and the meticulous micro painting for which Ulysse Nardin has long been Haute Horlogerie’s acknowledged master.
Launched at SIHH 2018, the Freak Vision contains a host of horological game-changers: a super-light silicium balance wheel with nickel mass elements and stabilizing micro-blades and a super-thin new case design made even thinner by a box-domed crystal. Now, the aesthetic techniques showcased in the Coral Bay incarnations provide a perfect foil for this technological masterwork.
The Swiss Manufacture is famous for its exploration of new technologies from other domains. The best example of this is its unique use of silicium, a material adopted from the electronics industry. With these timepieces they have added another electronics technique – bonding – which uses thousands of 24 carat gold threads to create painstakingly delicate patterns. Computer chip manufacturers use this to convey electricity; Ulysse Nardin uses it because the fabulously intricate designs it creates delight the eye.
A bonding machine squeezes gold thread on each side, one thread after another, to draw a coral reef motif on the watch movement’s barrel spring bridge. Each thread is a different size, and all are tied only at the top and bottom of the thread, but not in its center.
To create blue and yellow gold coral reef patterns, the watchmaker colors the component and the coral reefs with a chemical vapor disposition process in blue. The entire surface is colored except the departure and arrival points of the yellow gold threads, which are laser cleaned. Then the yellow gold threads are bonded to the component.
The Freak Vision Coral Bay also stands out for its miniature painting technique: red and white acrylic painting on the spring barrel bridge on a CVD blue surface treatment. The master artisan uses lacquer colors that are applied and mixed directly on the dial: the dial is heated in an oven at 90 degrees between each color application; this enables the colors to dry and remain firmly in place. Tiniest details are hand-colored using extremely fine brushes under a magnifying glass. The complexity of the motif requires approximately 20 hours of painting time. True works of art, the unique, on-demand pieces have two bar tack loop stitches on their straps in matching yellow gold or coral red, and a gear train bridge and escapement bridge in matching blue or coral red. Other color possibilities could be explored on demand.